During the summertime when work nationwide slows down a bit, I can give more attention to my local community. This summer the National Family Preservation Network (NFPN) convened a meeting of leaders in the community to discuss critical needs and how we could work together to address them.
I live in a rural community in Idaho with about 4,000 people. Here are some of the issues in this community as reflected in statistics from the entire state of Idaho:
- Idaho has the 9th highest suicide rate in the nation
- Idaho ranks 4th nationwide for the non-medical use of prescription opioid painkillers
- Idaho ranks 3rd for criminal child pornography offenses
- Traffic accidents/injuries/deaths in this community frequently involve not stopping at stop signs and not wearing seat belts
Those are harsh statistics and hard issues to address. Here are some positive statistics about the community and state:
- Idaho is the third most charitable state in the nation in terms of volunteerism and donating money
- Idaho rates first in the nation in child welfare systems (Right for Kids Ranking)
- Idaho has the 9th highest employment rate in the nation
What do the statistics tell us about this community and state? We’re generous, work hard, and take care of our families. But we’re also stubborn and independent and don’t ask for help when we really need it! How do we address these issues?
The community leaders decided to begin by identifying the resources that we already have. For example, we have three free resources for people with addictions but the resources are mostly invisible. We need to make sure that they’re visible! We can do that by widely disseminating information about resources. We are also looking at raising money to fund a position to connect people needing help to the resources.
The faith-based community is stepping up to provide resources. Last year NFPN and local churches sponsored a Celebrate Families Day, providing free food, fun activities, and educational materials to children and parents. We also sought donations for the local elementary school and everyone pitched in to fill a bus with backpacks and school supplies.
This year we want to emphasize safety when students return to school. We will do a kick-off in the fall that includes slogans such as Stop…in the name of love!
My long-term vision for this community is to have a multi-purpose family center that includes activities for families, connection to services, counseling for individuals and the family as a whole, support groups, educational resources, etc. Families are important and need a place to call their own!
So, this summer, take a look at your community’s needs and see how you, your organization, other helping organizations, churches, etc. can join together to help meet the needs. It will benefit both your community…and you!
Priscilla Martens, NFPN Executive Director